I'm referring, of course, to the online course registration system. Because it's about as lame, opaque, and disorienting as they come.
I was never thrilled with the system at UT: students were assigned a certain window of time, partly on a random basis and partly by seniority, to access the whole course catalog online and sign themselves up for any class whose prerequisites they met.
This was stressful and sometimes meant watching the last slot in a class disappear before your very eyes as your browser refreshed- or worse, having all your preferred courses fill up before your registration window even started. This always struck me as terribly unfair. But it also strikes me, now that I've registered at Harvard Law, as providing a certain sense of empowerment. If things went wrong and classes were closed, there was always the freedom to think quickly and save your own schedule with some complex alternative arrangement of classes that were still open.
Harvard's system doesn't come with this freedom. It consists of three lotteries- one each for the electives, the clinics, and the big standard classes taught by more than one professor. Each time, students submit a ranked list of the classes they'd like, and a very complex and supposedly fair algorithm repeatedly sorts us into random order and assigns us each the available course we've ranked highest until we run out of schedule space or bids.
We try to understand and accommodate this algorithm in our bidding, but it's beyond most of us. And as a result, things happen like MY 100% COMPLETE AND TOTAL LACK OF FALL SEMESTER COURSES (waitlists, but so far no courses) with no human being present to take notice and adapt.
Gross, right?? I'm managing not to panic just yet, because we're only through 2 of the 3 stages with electives registration still to go. But one semester of electives overload, fun as it sounds, will likely leave my remaining 3 semesters chock-full of Taxation, Corporations, Administrative Law, and Federal Courts... and a lot less room for Animal Law, Debating Race and American Law, Capital Punishment in America, or Law and Social Movements.
Best of all, none of those gems I just listed are offered in Fall 2009. As far as I'm concerned, next fall has the least spectacular electives offerings I've seen so far at Harvard! Just my luck!
Okay, enough griping. The truth is, very little of this is the HLS registration system's fault. It's just finals season, and I studied for almost 9 hours today, and it feels good to sling mud at the institution responsible.
Maybe it also feels good to hear me sounding like a grouchy, sleep-deprived, real-life law student for once!